Idaho began the season by hosting the Spokane Athletic Club. The Idaho squad handled the visitors easily, winning by the score of 22-0.  Idaho outgained the visiting team by a whopping 325 yards to 70.

The following week Idaho would travel to Portland to play Oregon. The governors of Idaho and Oregon would attend the game. The Argonaut reports that a huge crowd attended the game and that Idaho played a much better game than the score of 21-5 (Idaho scored a touchdown and missed the kick) indicated. Further, it was reported that the field was covered in six inches of…sawdust in order to make fast football.

On November 8th Idaho would host Washington State in the 10th annual Battle of the Palouse. Idaho wasn’t expecting to win, but was prepared to give WSC a fight nonetheless. Back in the early days the rivalry was fairly evenly matched. WSC had won 5 and Idaho 4. Washington State requested 1,000 tickets for the game and planned on bringing at least that many fans. In total, 3,000 people attended the game and witnessed an Idaho upset, evening the rivalry at 5 games apiece. The 5-4 victory was an upset as every football expert picked WSC to handily defeat Idaho. Idaho scored a touchdown and held WSC to a drop kick goal.


The Gem of the Mountains yearbook with a humorous commentary on the defeat of Washington State

After Idaho defeated Whitman the following week the Argonaut ran a front page headline declaring Idaho the champions of the Inland Empire. Idaho’s quickly improving team beat Whitman easily 11-0.

The final game of the season would be a true test for Idaho. The team would travel to Seattle to take on the mighty Huskies of Washington. The game would occur on Thanksgiving Day. The thrilling game would end in a 0-0 tie and would be one of the exceptionally rare times Idaho’s football squad would not be on the losing side in a battle against Washington.  Idaho once had the ball and was threatening to score, but turned the ball over on downs near the Washington 5 yard line.

Thus far in Idaho’s history the 1907 was considered the most successful season ever. The end of the season left several teams, including Idaho, vying for championship bragging rights. Oregon State defeated Oregon and Whitman. Idaho, while losing to Oregon, also defeated Whitman, defeated Washington State, and tied Washington. Meanwhile Washington State defeated Washington and Whitman. Unfortunately no title game would take place, so we will never know whether Idaho would have defeated Oregon State.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The team opened the season against the YMCA from Spokane. The Argonaut described the YMCA men as a individual stars who had not played together as a team prior to this season. The game was the inaugural performance on the “new” athletic field. The field, which predates even McLean Field was situated in a north-south orientation at approximately the location of the present day Education Building. As expected, the yet-to-be-named Vandals hardly struggled with the YMCA, winning by a score of 31-0.

The next game would be against the Bremerton Navy. This team was composed of “full grown men who are given three hours leave from duty each day that they may practice“.  The Bremerton team would face off against Idaho on Saturday, stay in Moscow for the week, and then play Washington State the following Friday. Idaho again handled their opponent with ease, defeating the Marines 32-0. The Bremerton team described Idaho as the fastest team in the northwest.

Idaho’s historic difficulty with the Oregon Ducks continued in 1908. The Arg described the game as “spectacular” but Idaho fell just short of Oregon and lost by the score of 27-21.

Because of Idaho’s strong performance in the first three games of the season it was expected that Idaho would prevail easily over Whitman next. But, the Missionaries surprised everyone and defeated Idaho 11-0. Idaho twice had the ball down to the Whitman 1 yard line but twice Idaho was denied. Falling to a record of 2-2 on the season, Idaho prepared next for Washington State. Then, as now, the entire season would be considered a success if Idaho could defeat the State College.

A huge crowd of 3,000 spectators witnessed the epic clash that would take place in Pullman. Neither team was able to cross the goal and the game finished a 4-4 tie. A pair of 4 point field goals in the first half was all the scoring that was allowed between the bitter rivals.



For the final game of the season Idaho would travel to Salt Lake to take on Utah. On a snowy field Idaho and Utah played to a 0-0 tie. The game was called an hour in because of weather. Still, 1500 brave souls witnessed the battle. Idaho was expecting to defeat Idaho easily but the silver and gold outplayed Utah, who was lucky to escape without a loss.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the FCS

Recently I was debating with someone why I thought the move to FCS was a terrible decision on the part of the institution. Among the typical reasons this person supported the move was that we will never be able to compete with the USC’s of the world. In their view the institution would never provide adequate resources to compete at that level. Wouldn’t our resource capability be better positioned for success against the Big Sky?

That got me thinking. It depends, of course, how the institution defines success. I would argue that we don’t need to compete with USC and Alabama. We should judge our success relative to other Group of Five (G5) schools. I would argue that a measurable measure of success would be bowl appearances. I would argue that this program would be successful if every four-year player to pass through the program appeared in at least one bowl game. Would our level of institutional support not allow the program to achieve such a modest goal?

Well, for the years 2012 through 2015 the average budget for G5 teams making only one bowl game was over 30 million dollars. Meanwhile, Idaho’s budget for the last year was roughly 20 million. But, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Some athletic departments like Connecticut and UNLV with huge budgets have only one bowl appearance to show for it. During the same time period Bowling Green went to four bowls, Lafayette went to three, Louisiana Tech went to two, and Monroe went to one. All four of these institutions have budgets similarly sized to that of the University of Idaho and are capable of producing at least one bowl team within the last four years. Is Idaho unable to manage its finances at least as well as Monroe and Bowling Green?

Since the decision has already been made it begs the question “how will we define success in the FCS?” The average budget of a playoff team last year was nearly identical to Idaho’s athletics budget. Should fans now expect yearly playoff appearances from this program? Would less be considered a failure? Or will the Idaho athletics budget, without the benefit of big money games at the FBS level, shrink to a less competitive level for even a lower division? One side of this debate will be proven right. Either Idaho will return to football prominence in the Big Sky or drift further into irrelevance in the Big Sky and State of Idaho.

Regardless of future results fans of the Idaho program should not excuse the mishandling of the Vandals entire tenure in FBS. Never forget that when Idaho made the jump to FBS in 1996 the Vandals beat Boise State 3 years in a row, won a conference title and went to a bowl game. The university is now suffering the consequences of that lack of inaction. Doing things the “Idaho Way” have crippled this program and doomed it to failure. Exploiting NCAA attendance rules rather than using early on-field success to improve facilities is but one in a long history of missteps by the university.

A final thought on the decision to accept the Big Sky’s standing invitation: Idaho is not the University of Chicago. In the first place the private University of Chicago is one of the most elite research institutions in the world whose legitimacy will never be defined by athletics. Idaho is a state, land-grant university. In the second place Chicago may have withdrawn from the Big Ten athletic conference but as a founding member of both the Big Ten and its academic counterpart the Committee on Institution Cooperation the University of Chicago remains intimately associated with the Big Ten. Any further comparison between Idaho and the University of Chicago is not only unfounded but embarrassing.

Far more applicable to this situation is the voluntary decision by the University of Montana to withdraw from the Pacific Coast Conference, of which Idaho was a member. The governor of Montana said at the time that their university would keep athletics “properly subordinated to the academic function”. At the time Montana wanted to join an inferior league composed of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Of course, all of those schools continued on an upward trajectory while Montana chose to look downward.

History, it appears, it repeating itself again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RIP Vandal Football

1968. The death of an historic Vandal tradition. The annual football game in Boise, Southern Homecoming, died when Idaho welcomed Boise State College into the Big Sky Conference with open arms. Idaho, of course, would continue to play in Boise. But in the future it would be different. It would be against Boise State. It would no longer be an “Idaho” game. It would be a “Boise State” game. The death of this tradition marked the beginning of Idaho’s slow, painful, decline from prominence in the state of Idaho.
For many years Southern Homecoming featured Idaho hosting the Utah Utes. It’s not widely known today, but historically, southern Idaho fans viewed the nearly annual game against the Utes as the biggest game of the year. North Idaho fans, of course, rallied around the Battle of the Palouse. Southern homecoming offered southern Idaho alumni and fans the chance to connect with the university. The Sound of Idaho led the homecoming parade through downtown Boise. The university hosted parties and galas. The governors of Idaho and Utah attended the game. The game was the biggest fundraiser of the year. And that’s not to mention the publicity and goodwill generated by distributing tickets to elected officials and local football coaches.

Since the elevation of Boise Junior College to Boise State, though, the Vandals have voluntarily yielded Boise to the Broncos, content to play in Boise only as the visiting team. Now, that too, has come to an end. But, it didn’t have to be that way.
Being in a separate athletic conference from our in-state rival offered Idaho an unprecedented opportunity to reclaim some of its former glory. Cooperating with Boise State University to restore a long-dead Vandal tradition offered the opportunity to tone down some of the hateful rhetoric between fans (and sometimes even university presidents). Restoring the game would have provided an opportunity for some of the most dedicated supporters their only opportunity to see Vandal football. Restoring the game would have provided an opportunity reclaim a portion of the Treasure Valley for the University of Idaho.

Idaho is fortunate enough to have four historic football rivals in Washington State, Montana, Boise State, and Utah. But, as a result of bad luck and institutional stubbornness it no longer plays any of them regularly. Athletics in general and football in particular could have been fixed. Idaho needed only to regain the will to do it. The institution needed only to learn from Idaho’s rich history. Idaho’s presence in the Treasure Valley could have been restored. Idaho’s relevance in southern Idaho could have been restored. Vandal Football could have been saved.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Idaho began the 1909 season by defeating Puget Sound. The game was played in Moscow and Idaho expended little effort in defeating the team from Washington. The second string played for most of the second half. Puget Sound scored in the last minute to make the final score 31-6.

The next week Idaho would face Whitman in what was expected to be another Idaho victory. However, Whitman surprised everyone and soundly defeated Idaho 30-6. By all accounts Idaho was outplayed in every aspect of the game and scored only on by returning a blocked kick for a touchdown.

The first major game of the season would occur in week three against Washington. The team from Seattle would face Idaho at Recreation Park in Spokane. The facility, which hosted the Spokane Indians baseball club seated approximately 7,000 spectators. About 3,000 showed up to see Idaho embarrassed by Washington. The real interesting thing about the game, though were the side stories. The game was essentially a test of the city of Spokane and its ability to hold major sporting events. There were problems, though, including several hundred spectators sneaking into the event without paying. Another interesting aspect of the game was its foreshadowing of future problems in college football. Idaho made money from the game, but Washington, due to travel, barely broke even. Both aspects are detailed in the article in the Spokesman Review.

The following week Idaho hosted Washington State in Moscow. The recent rain turned the field to mud and Idaho was again defeated by WSC by the score of 18-0. As always, controversy surrounded the game with Idaho protesting that WSC was given an extra down resulting in their first touchdown.


Against Oregon, the Idaho squad finally put together a respectable performance. The result was the same though – a loss. The final score from Portland was 22-6. It was the first time all season, though, that the Idaho offense looked to be working as a team.

Idaho finished the season by travelling to Boise for a Thanksgiving Day game against the Boise All Stars and a game two days later against the College of Idaho. The silver and gold were victorious in both efforts against the competition to finish the season 3-4.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Practice for the 1910 season began September 22 with coach Griffith introducing the “bucking strap“. The first game was scheduled nearly a month later and would be the battle of the Palouse.

The new practice methods worked and Idaho evened the series with Washington State at 6-6-1. In 1910 Idaho won by the score of 9-5. A big crowd of 3000 spectators were in Pullman to see Idaho defeat the Pullmanites.

In 1910 Idaho wore the traditional red jerseys as they invaded Pullman and defeated the gray-clad State College team. The Spokesman estimated the crowd at 2500 and claimed to be the biggest crowd for a sporting event in local history.


The game atmosphere and victory were roundly celebrated in Moscow. The Idaho students whom made the trip to Pullman foiled the Washington State serpentine by coming on the field in the middle of the Washington State “W”.  In fact, Idaho sent 600-700 fans from Moscow to Pullman for the game. Coach Griffith was becoming somewhat of a local legend by defeating Washington State 4 out of 5 times.

Idaho’s second “real” game of the season would be against Oregon. Idaho had already played two practices games – against Gonzaga and Lewis Clark State. Idaho hoped that this would be the season to finally break through against Oregon. Unfortunately it was not to be and Oregon soundly defeated Idaho 29-0.  A big crowd of 2000 saw the game including a few students from Pullman (whom rooted for Oregon).

Idaho traveled to Seattle next to face the mighty Washington squad and was again defeated 29-0. Idaho failed to achieve even a single first down against Washington. After the loss to Washington, Idaho would finish the season with a 5-0 victory over Whitman.

At this time Idaho competed in what was known as the Northwest Conference. The conference officials met in Portland in February of 1910. Typical agenda items included division of football gates receipts, scheduling, and eligibility of athletes. Expected in the 2011 meeting was the admittance of Whitworth to the league.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1911 – Two Presidents Visit the University

The year 1911 was a special one in the history of the University of Idaho. One of the most historic ever in the long and glorious history of the university. In 1911 two U.S. presidents visited the Moscow campus. First president Teddy Roosevelt in April and then, three months later, President Taft. Huge crowds greeted Taft on his tour and Moscow was no exception. Although he pronounced Moscow incorrectly, the people still cheered. There’s a great interview with a local man (and former Vandal football player) named Abe MacGregor about his attendance at the Theodore Roosevelt appearance available from the University of Idaho library.

On the football field, Idaho entered the 1911 season with an all time winning record against Washington State College. The crimson and gray would be victorious in 1911 to tie the series at 6-6-2.  The Spokane papers took a decidedly pro-cougar tone in their game recaps. However, the great rivalry was described in romantic terms and the game was apparently a great one. WSC won by the score of 17-0 but Idaho fought hard, as they always do, against the cougars. The Chronicle mentions that Idaho was the lighter team and was pretty well handled by WSC. The Spokesman featured a tabulation of all previous scores in the series showing just how competitive this rivalry had become. The Spokesman also put the crowd at 4,000 spectators with special trains, packed to the steps, running to Moscow. Idaho’s biggest crowds have historically been against the hated cougars and it is a shame that the game now rarely occurs at all and never occurs in Moscow.

There is an omission in the record books regarding Idaho’s game with Gonzaga the week before the WSC affair. On October 14 Idaho hosted Gonzaga in Moscow. Once again the paper labeled the team from Moscow the “Huskies”. Idaho Huskies doesn’t have the same ring to it as Mighty Vandals. Surprisingly the 22-0 victory was seen as a disappointment with Idaho expected to beat the Gonzagans by 30 to 35 points.

Members of the 1911 Idaho Vandals from the 1913 Gem of the Mountains

Members of the 1911 Idaho Vandals from the 1913 Gem of the Mountains

The record books also omit the location and date of Idaho’s meeting with Lewiston Normal. That game occurred on October 7 and was also played at Moscow. The Mighty Vandals made quick work of the normal school and won by the score of 40-5.

On the 28th of October Idaho met Washington in Spokane. An example of another tradition lost or given up by Idaho is the hosting of events in the region’s largest population center. Spokane, as usual, was excited about hosting such a big event. Washington was favored by 10-20 points and the game played out exactly as expected with Washington enjoying a 17-0 victory. The Spokesman ran a huge comic poking fun at the ease with which Washington defeated Idaho.

Following the Washington game, Idaho returned home to host Whitman. The Vandals got back to their winning ways at home, defeating Whitman 5-0. The only touchdown of the game came in the first quarter. Idaho outplayed Whitman for most of the game with the visitors rarely threatening to score.

Idaho then traveled to Salt Lake City to face another old rival on Thanksgiving day- Utah. Three weeks had elapsed between Idaho football games due to Oregon canceling a scheduled meeting due to the death of one of their players. The snowy field and fast Utah team proved too much for Idaho with the Vandals falling by the score of 19-0. The Spokesman stated that “the Mormons got the advantage of almost every break”.

In Idaho’s last game of the season the Vandals defeated the Boise All-Stars by the score of either 21-0 or 31-0.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment